Georgia State Economist Receives $250,000 To Study Elderly Food Security, SNAP And Health Outcomes

Young caregiver delivers groceries to an elderly woman

ATLANTA-Georgia State University economist James Marton and his team have been awarded a $250,000 grant to evaluate the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on the food security and health of people aged 60 and older.

The two-year study, conducted for the University of Kentucky Center for Policy Research with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will expand the understanding of and policy implications for food-related hardships among older Americans.

Food insecurity is growing at double the rate among elderly people-45 percent since 2001-than it is among the general population. The number of elderly people is also growing at a faster rate, suggesting that even if the proportion of those who are food insecure remains the same, the number of those affected will continue to grow in absolute terms.

“Food insecurity is a leading public health challenge in the U.S., particularly among seniors,” said Marton. “The odds they will be depressed, suffer serious heart conditions or complications from asthma are 50 to 60 percent higher. The odds that their daily activities will be limited are 22 percent higher. These health outcomes lead to added financial burdens for themselves and the healthcare system.”

Marton’s research team includes economists and co-investigators Rusty Tchernis, a professor in Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, and Chuck Courtemanche of the University of Kentucky, along with Andrew Young School alum Austin Denteh, an assistant professor at Tulane University, and doctoral candidate Jordan Jones. They will use three large national data sets to explore the dynamics of SNAP’s effects on seniors.

“We understand that a central goal of the USDA is to reduce food insecurity among seniors,” said Marton. “We expect our research to inform the work of policymakers and program administrators in their effort to achieve this goal.

“If we find SNAP generally improves seniors’ food security and health outcomes, it may lead the USDA to develop ways to improve senior participation in SNAP. However, if we find that SNAP harms seniors or has no effect, it would suggest they explore changes to the program that will improve senior outcomes.”

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